Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

All Sense And No Nonsense

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 14, 2013

When you hear someone say someone is all sense and no nonsense what they are saying is that the person appears sensible, direct, efficient, and practical. In other words, what they say is what they mean and what they say and do is usually well-thought out long before they say and do what they mean to say and do.

In Thomas D. Taylor’s short story “Skeleton Key” published in 2013, the narrator shares this with the reader:

The man was hardly more than a boy though he must have been in his mid-twenties. He was blond, fair looking but resembled an accountant more than a jock. He had glasses, wispy hair and was dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. The woman he was with wore white shorts and a blue and white striped top. She was also blond but had no characteristics of the familiar stereotype. This one was all sense and no nonsense.

While the phrase isn’t heard very often these days, it was used in an advertisement in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on February 26, 1943 where the headline read:

All Sense And No Nonsense About These Slack Suits For Your Working Hours.

The slack suits they were selling were described thusly:

Designed primarily for play, slack suits have been taken up with gusto by today’s busy women for their working hours. They’re comfortable as an old shoe, yet are so beautifully tailored and styled, they give you that neat, concise look that’s important these days.

Back in 1873, the expression was found in “The National Teacher: A Monthly Educational Journal: Volume III” edited by Emerson Elbridge White. In the Editorial Department, on page 507, the following was written:

School Commissioner Harvey has attended a large number of the institutes in Ohio this year, rendering valuable assistance. His public addresses are highly commended by the press. An eminent educator who heard him at a recent institute, writes: “Commissioner Harvey is capital — all sense and no nonsense. No teacher can hear him without benefit.”

Taking the phrase apart, the no nonsense part of the phrase actually originates from the phrase to stand no nonsense which, according to numerous dictionaries, was sporting slang back in 1821.

The word nonsense itself entered the English language from the French word nonsens sometime in the 1610s. The French word meant that something was either ridiculous or wildly unreasonable.

Since the expression was used in a published magazine in 1873, it is reasonable to believe that the expression all sense and no nonsense was in use at least one generation prior to 1873, putting it at sometime in the late 1840s or early 1850s.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: